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Ohio senior middle blocker Karin Bull hits the ball over the net toward LSU during the Ohio vs LSU game. Ohio beat LSU in all three matches on Septmeber 4, 2015. 

Volleyball: Ohio prepares for Kent State by focusing on confidence and consistency

The Bobcats hold on tight to first place in the MAC East Division, face Kent State in first game back at The Convo since Oct. 17.

No one thought the Bobcats would have to be questioned about their confidence at this point in the season.

Yet, in a short week that brings Kent State to The Convo highlighting a matchup between the first and second place leaders in the Mid-American Conference East Division, Ohio is finding itself psychologically prepared to play.

“We talked over this weekend about confidence, about taking control of your own emotions,” Ohio coach Deane Webb said in response to if he expressed any concern for his team’s recent issues.

“This is a struggle that we have seen coming,” he said. “We had some wins where we didn’t play well, didn’t play the way we wanted and then we won. Sometimes we need to be reminded that we have to be all in.”

The Bobcats came out on the wrong end of two sweeps over the past two weeks against Northern Illinois and Miami (OH). It has got the team searching for some leadership and resiliency.

One Ohio senior could provide just what the Bobcats need. Following her change to a full-time outside hitter position, senior Shelby Walker has led the Bobcats in kills in three of their last four matches.

“Being a middle blocker, everything is so fast, explosive and dynamic," Walker said. “It basically feels like you’re running in circles.

“The outside is slow-paced. It’s relaxing because you get to see the whole court from a different perspective. I love it.”

Webb said Walker, who is from Bradenton, Florida, got a taste of the tendencies required for the outside hitter position by playing beach volleyball.

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Although Walker wasn’t ready to consistently attack from the outside six months ago, she is now beginning to slow down her pace and translate that muscle-memory onto the hardcourt for the Bobcats.

“If you were to take our last four to five matches, she has been our most successful player, our most consistent player," Webb said of Walker. “It’s not easy to play your entire career in the middle and move to the outside. As the year has gone on, she has learned some of the nuances of the position.”

The learning curve for Walker is diminishing each time she steps foot onto the outskirts of the Bobcats' formation.

That’s something the rest of her team has begun to get used to and trust as well.

In her previous 14-kill performance against Bowling Green, Walker put together a couple of nice shots that reinforced Webb’s belief that she is continuing to grasp the qualities of an outside hitter.

Webb said when Walker is about to execute her attack, the team’s reaction recently has drastically shifted from that of earlier in the year.

The swap of, “Oh, what’s about to happen?” to “Oh, it’s probably going to be a good shot” is a positive sign of Walker's improvement.

Especially important for a struggling Ohio attack yearning for consistency and battling to stay atop Kent State in the MAC standings.

nk596613@ohio.edu

@NKairys

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